How strange it is. We have these deep terrible lingering fears about ourselves and the people we love. Yet we walk around, talk to people, eat and drink. We manage to function. The feelings are deep and real. Shouldn’t they paralyze us? How is it we can survive them, at least for a little while? We drive a car, we teach a class. How is it no one sees how deeply afraid we were, last night, this morning? Is it something we all hide from each other, by mutual consent? Or do we share the same secret without knowing it? Wear the same disguise?
Don DeLillo, White Noise  (via wiltedbones)
I thought of their astounding number, both in the present and past, of Zandy and Angela, of Brian, of Granny, even of my father, whose disavowal of me led to this place, and I understood that as much as I had resisted the outside, as much as I had constricted my life, as much as I had closed and narrowed the channels into me, there were still many takers for the quiet heart.
Steve Martin, from The Pleasure of My Company (via the-final-sentence)

"I know what I believe, though the older I get, the more willing I am to admit that often, I barely believe any of it. Yet one thing I cling to is this: somewhere in between pre-slicing and wiping out the bread plate, there is a thin place. This mundane bread and inexpensive wine, gifts of God, become an offering back to him. In our ritual, we lift the wine and the bread, like a sacrifice, and then we eat it. We eat God, a little, somehow.

But it’s just bread and wine. Though I know how sacred this is, it still feels almost banal. So although, I come away from the table with a heart brimming with joy sometimes, more often I walk away preoccupied, already thinking of the week ahead.

But I choose to believe—-I have to believe—-that I have, right there, experienced a thin place. I have received the gift of God and swallowed it, and now, it is part of me, whether or not I was paying attention.”

—Alissa Wilkinson

"It’s a common and easy enough distinction, this separation of books into those we read because we want to and those we read because we have to, and it serves as a useful marketing trope for publishers, especially when they are trying to get readers to take this book rather than that one to the beach. But it’s a flawed and pernicious division. This linking of pleasure and guilt is intended as an enticement, not as an admonition: reading for guilty pleasure is like letting one’s diet slide for a day—naughty but relatively harmless. The distinction partakes of a debased cultural Puritanism, which insists that the only fun to be had with a book is the frivolous kind, or that it’s necessarily a pleasure to read something accessible and easy. Associating pleasure and guilt in this way presumes an anterior, scolding authority—one which insists that reading must be work.

But there are pleasures to be had from books beyond being lightly entertained. There is the pleasure of being challenged; the pleasure of feeling one’s range and capacities expanding; the pleasure of entering into an unfamiliar world, and being led into empathy with a consciousness very different from one’s own; the pleasure of knowing what others have already thought it worth knowing, and entering a larger conversation.”

—Rebecca Mead, The Pleasure of Reading to Impress Yourself

More people should visit Antarctica, metaphorically speaking, on their own. That is one of the conclusions I have reached, one of my recommendations: explore something, even if it’s just a bookshelf. Make a stab in the dark. Read off the beaten path. Your attention is precious. Be careful of other people trying to direct how you dispense it. Confront your own values. Decide what it is you are looking for and then look for it. Perform connoisseurship. We all need to create our own vocabulary of appreciation, or we are trapped by the vocabulary of others. Intensity, uniqueness, variety, specificity—these are qualities I value, but perhaps you will not. Size is important to me: capaciousness in a work of fiction, length in a career. What do you value? Why? Does reading have more merit than any other way of passing time? Is it useful to read randomly? alone? in discussion groups? bad books? old books? new? I wish that literary criticism could be built back up on the ground of experience, closer to book reviewing than academic theory, with a bias toward enthusiasm, with new Matthew Arnolds putting in their two cents about the best that was ever thought and said and new Nabokovs and Wilsons puncturing cant.
Phyllis Rose, The Shelf, p. 215
Every time you read a work of fiction, you are committing an acte gratuit, a gratuitous act that proves your freedom. Novels and stories, as Jane Smiley has pointed out, can only attract, never coerce. ‘To read fiction is to do something voluntary and free, to exercise choice over and over.’ Of course, some of us get the habit of reading in school, where reading is the reverse of free: it is assigned and required. So freedom has to be acquired or reacquired in later life. But instead of urging us to venture forth on our own, our consumer culture tries to persuade us always to sign up for guided tours, to do what someone else may profit from our doing. Only libraries promote random reading through their open stacks and that ultimately random system of organization, alphabetical order. Otherwise, in all realms, literary and literal, the guided tour prevails.
Phyllis Rose, The Shelf, p. 215
You cannot know at a book’s birth if it will become a classic. It will be a classic if it appeals to generation after generation of readers, and you would be able to know that only if you could hover in eternity and watch. Hovering over a work of fiction for merely a lifetime is the job of the literary critic, who is to a book reviewer as a pediatrician is to a midwife. The midwife is for a one-time event. The literary critic is for the life of the book. A book reviewer tells you, when a book first appears, whether he or she believes it is worth your time. The literary critic sees to your relationship with the book later. He or she tries to make sure that people continue to discuss a work as years go by. By talking about it over and over, through the years and centuries, we help to nudge it into eternal life. If we go on reading it, it is worthy to be read, proving itself to be not of an age, but for all time.
Phyllis Rose, The Shelf, p. 181
Prose is about what can be said and what is known and so on. Poetry is about what cannot be expressed. I mean, terrible grief, or intense erotic feeling, or even unspeakable anger are all inexpressible. You can’t put them in words and that’s why you try to put them in words. Because that’s all you’ve got.
W. S. Merwin, in an interview with Joel Whitney (via weissewiese)